Maybe I've seen one too many PBS fundraising specials focusing on the great a cappella singers lately and I'm lamenting my lost youth. But in front of my house, which was built in 1930, is one of those old-timey lampposts - which works - and sometimes I fantasize starting my own doo-wop group to sing under it.
One of the tunes my group and I would sing is In the Still of the Nite by the Five Satins. I was too young to be aware of it when it was first released in 1956, however in 1960-61 it gained a new and enduring life when it was re-released and at some point I would have heard it on Washington, D.C. soul stations in the early 60s.
Ranked at #90 on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the song was written by lead singer Fred Parris, who is still performing, and was originally recorded in a church basement in New Haven, Connecticut.
In Gerri Hirshey's Nowhere To Run, Ben E. King, who was once a Drifter, describes the influence of songs such as this one: "We'd learn from the records, like everybody did ... If you could sing Moonglows, you could kill the neighborhood. They had great harmonies, the Moonglows. Or the Satins or the Clovers. We tried to pattern ourselves after the tight-harmonied groups."
What is the enduring appeal? King goes on: "You could dance to the stuff, kiss your girl to it. And, my God, more than a lot of this electronic stuff you have going on now, you could feel it. It was a human voice you picked up on. I guess I'd say you could get involved on a real emotional level."
And if you could kill the neighborhood in the bargain, so much the better!